ZIMBABWE: Leopard/Buffalo Hunt with Martin Pieters Safaris and Shaun Buffee

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports' started by Mike70560, May 23, 2011.

  1. Mike70560

    Mike70560 AH Fanatic

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    Where to start? I guess this trip began when our hunt with Neil Duckworth ended in September of 2010. Immediately after our return I contacted Martin Pieters about a leopard and buffalo hunt in the Omay area of Zimbabwe for early season 2011. A couple of quick emails and we were set with the exception of a few details. My only stipulation was that Shaun Buffee would be our PH. I shared a camp with Shaun in 2009 and spent time with him in Dallas in 2010. To say Shaun enjoys hunting leopard is a colossal understatement. It was his enthusiasm that convinced me to hunt leopard.

    Shaun, Katherine, and I hammered out the details at the 2011 DSC convention. We decided to fly in to Victoria Falls and spend a couple of days sightseeing and then charter to the Chifudze camp in the Omay south area. We would then hunt leopard, buffalo, and possibly a kudu for fifteen days. After that we would drive back to Bulawayo and spend a couple of days with Martin and his family.

    Our first small problem was I knew nothing about Victoria Falls. After a couple of PMs, emails, and phone calls with JudgeG (A buddy from another forum) I knew enough to start a tour service at the Falls. His advice was invaluable. We used the services of Russell Caldecott as recommended by the Judge.

    Shawn at Gracy Travel handled the airline tickets, SAPs gun permits, and booking Africa Sky for our overnight stay in Joberg.

    As per Shaun's recommendation I brought a 300 Winchester Magnum for leopard loaded with 180 grain Partitions. As always my 470 Krieghoff double loaded with Cutting Edge Solids and North Fork Cup Points and my CZ 550 375 H&H with North Fork softs along with Cutting Edge solids made the trip. We also brought the 7 by 57 for Kudu. Three animals to be hunted and four rifles, we were well armed.

    We left the day before Easter and the Delta flight was not full. We had an empty seat in our row and it was nice to have the extra room. The trip was uneventful and the luggage arrived. Africa Sky was nice as it was our previous stays. We visited with a hunter that was returning from a leopard hunt on Cawston with Shaun.

    Upon arrival at Victoria Falls, Russell's man Zwe met us at the airport. We stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel and over the next two days did the normal tourist things. We walked along the Falls, had lunch at the Safari Lodge, took the helicopter flight over the Falls, and of course enjoyed the 釘ooze Cruise one evening. I have to admit that JudgeG is famous in Victoria Falls, the mere mention of his name brings instant respect. There is even a goat named after him. Zwe was a pleasure to be with and he took good care of us.

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    There was plenty of water at Victoria Falls. It is truly an impressive sight.

    On Wednesday we bid farewell to Zwe and Victoria Falls and boarded a 210 bound for Omay South. Shaun and his tracker Bhekkie met us at the airstrip and we then drove to camp. That afternoon we sighted in the rifles and drove a small area checking for buffalo tracks. Our plans were to shoot a buffalo as quick as possible for leopard bait and start hunting leopard.

    Thursday morning we were awake bright and early ready to hunt buffalo which happens to be one of my favorite activities, ever!! After riding many kilometers and walking several more we were unable to find any fresh buffalo tracks. We did find one cobra. It is amazing how high a tracker can jump. That evening we walked down the Chifudze River from the camp. We found some fresh buffalo tracks going in to the park and two sets of lion tracks. Shaun and I decided not to sit on the river as it was becoming late and let the buffalo cross back on our side unmolested. We saw a python with a bad attitude on the way back to camp. While we did not see much it was great to be back hunting in Africa.

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    Beats being in the office!!!

    Friday, April 29th we left our camp at first light on foot. It was the first time I ever started a day of hunting in Africa without riding in a Land Cruiser. Within a kilometer of the camp we saw the two lions. Luckily they ran in to the park and left us alone. We continued for several more kilometers and found the buffalo tracks crossing in to the Omay. We followed the tracks in some of the thickest and tallest grass you would want to deal with. It is very green at this time of the year. After several kilometers we were able to find the herd. We worked our way around and climbed a small hill to give us the ability to see the herd. As they started crossing a clearing at about 75 yards, Shaun saw a very old mud covered bull in the herd. He whistled and the bull turned towards us. A shot from the 375 in the shoulder with him quartering towards me was all it took, but I backed it up with a solid on a raking shot. We waited a couple of minutes and heard the death bellow close by. It was now raining very hard and I was worried the blood would be washed away. I grabbed my double and we started the follow up. Fortunately it was dead about a hundred yards from where I shot it. We now had bait, but more important we had a fine old bull; it was the buffalo trophy I was looking for on this hunt.

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    Shaun Buffee and me

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    I would say he is pretty well worn on the tips.

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    Nice old bull

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    I am not sure if we were hunting buffalo or bongo.


    More to come......
  2. Frederik

    Frederik AH Enthusiast

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    Good old warrior buff there congrats yes this year is extremely green everywhere !
  3. James.Grage

    James.Grage GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Mike

    Sound like you had a great start and good buffalo hunt...

    good pictures and follow up....
  4. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Certainly beats the office.
    Looks like you got an old bull that used his horns for a plough every day.
    Congrats.
  5. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Great beginning, looking forward to the rest of the story.
  6. WST416

    WST416 AH Veteran

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    Nice buffalo Mike, congratulations, Victoria Falls is quite a place and everyone should see it once.
  7. Alcornoque

    Alcornoque AH Senior Member

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    Congratulations for this safari!!!! Nice old bull!!!!
    Shaun Buffee is an excellent PH... sure you enjoyed hunting with him a lot!
    I have hunted with him several times and he always pushes himself hard to get the best trophy for the client.
  8. Nyati

    Nyati AH Legend

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    Congratulations, a great trophy !
  9. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Congradulations on the old cape buffalo, liked the pictures of Victoria Falls!
  10. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Exceptional Buffalo Mike!
  11. Mike70560

    Mike70560 AH Fanatic

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    We now have bait! We walked back to camp and drove the cruiser to the buffalo which required us to cut a road. After taking pictures, the buffalo was quickly skinned and butchered for leopard bait. It is now time to start hunting leopard.

    Over the next two days we placed eight baits in trees all over Omay South. For those who have not hunted leopard this is my description of what happens. First the proper tree in the proper location must be found. Even though I have been to Africa several times I still ask the “what kind of tree, insect, spider, etc” question. Shaun’s answer to what kind of tree that is would be something like “Good shade tree, not good for leopard”. We walked down rivers looking for tracks and the perfect tree with a good place to build the blind while other baits were hung within sight of the road. Shaun took in account the prevailing winds, would our scent settle in the wrong place, the angle of the cat if he was in the tree, and many other minor details that make a difference. The guys would pull a piece of meat such as a buffalo quarter in the tree and secure with a wire as directed by Shaun. An area around the base of the tree would be cleaned of all leaves and sand would be placed so we could check tracks. Buffalo stomach contents were then spread at the tree base and in the general area. Then we would drag rotten buffalo guts away from the bait in hopes of attracting a big tom.

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    Hanging Baits

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    Dragging Baits

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    One of the rivers we scouted, this is where I discovered quicksand was not just in Tarzan movies.

    Once the eight baits were out we traveled nearly 150 kilometers per day to check them all. It was exciting walking up to a bait to find a leopard had fed the previous night. The days were long and grueling but satisfying. We also had two game cameras and soon had pictures of a female and a young male feeding on different baits. Two separate occasions we also saw a female in the daylight with a cub on a bait.

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    Young Male

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    Female

    The only problem was it was still warm and humid. There was a big rain shower on May 1st. The next morning the weather finally changed and it was dry and cool for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately the humidity took a toll on our bait and by May 3rd they were beginning to rot. The only solution was to hunt another buffalo.

    On the 4th we hunted for a buffalo cow all day. While we saw many cows they all had young calves. I almost had to shoot a cow that charged but she stopped about 30 feet away when Shaun shouted her down. We crossed a road during the day and crossed it again about 90 minutes later. We found a nice set of leopard tracks on top of our tracks. Now the pressure was really on. We were in and out of buffalo all day and walked back to the truck in the dark but were unsuccessful. Those are the days I love. We hunted hard and walked quite a few miles. We were chased by elephants, watched a herd of a hundred buffalo stampede, and took a quick nap in a river bed during the heat of the day. It just does not get any better.

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    Nothing like a good nap after lunch in the bush.

    The next morning we were on buffalo early. We managed to get in front of the herd and waited for them. Shaun and I were behind a tree and I could hear the bovine coming. When the buffalo were visible they were only 25 yards away. A quick look showed a young cow without a calf. I stepped around the tree and shot here through the shoulders. She slung her head back and collapsed like a brain shot elephant. There was one short death bellow on her way down and it was over. The 500 grain North Fork cup point went through the top of her heart. That was my eighth buffalo but the first to die without taking a step. We skinned her where she fell. When Shaun was walking back to the truck her heard lion killing a buffalo calf. Needless to say he did not investigate.

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    Leopard Bait.

    Later in the morning we are putting out fresh bait. We found two baits hit including one near where we saw the tracks in the road the day before. We placed a trail camera on that bait. We were anxious to check baits on the 6th.

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    Note the time. It is accurate.


    More tomorrow….
  12. Frederik

    Frederik AH Enthusiast

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    Mike, how can you leave us hanging like this with a trailcam pic like that very nasty of you ? :crying:
  13. Thunder head

    Thunder head AH Enthusiast

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    Thats what im talking about. When i imagine a day on safari this is what it should be like!!!!
    More, give us more!
  14. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    How much plains game are you seeing in the area?
  15. Mike70560

    Mike70560 AH Fanatic

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    We saw a beautiful herd of sable with a 40+ incher among the 20 or so animals in the group. There were also impala, some kudu, the odd waterbuck, a few bushbuck, and warthogs.

    This area is not known for plainsgame and being early the grass was so thick any PG was hard to see.

    We did see a 300+ buffalo, lion, leopard, and elephant.
  16. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    All good stuff, Thanks!
  17. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Great information Mike, I think it adds a lot to the hunting report!
  18. Alcornoque

    Alcornoque AH Senior Member

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    I agree 100 percent with Mike.
    I hunted the Omay North 2 years ago with Shaun Buffee and managed to shoot 2 nice buff and a monster hippo.
    The area is good for dangerous game. The elephants you find in this area are not big but there are a bunch of them. The ivory average would be somewhere around 20 - 35 punds.
    We saw elephant almost evrey day hunting in there.
    The Omay North is good for hippo and crocodile because of the lake Kariba.
    And both areas, the north and south, are good for buffalo. This area is by Matusadona national park and there are lots of buffalo coming in and out the park.
    If you plan to hunt buff in there you better hunt by the border of the national park, the chances of getting a nice old bull increases. However the best bull I shot in there was far away from the national park border.

    To hunt in there is tough and challenging but rewarding whenever you find a nice buff to shot. I run into a lots of buff heard while hunting in there... that is so exited...

    While I hunted in there a saw lots of waterbuck by the lake, bunch of young bushbucks, some impala, a few wharthog and grysbock.
    I heard there are a bunch of sable heard by the Mapongola Hills, but never saw one in the north of area.
  19. Mike70560

    Mike70560 AH Fanatic

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    We were back checking baits on the morning of May 6th with high hopes. We arrived at one of the baits the leopard fed on and checked the camera. No pictures but the cat had fed. I did not have something set correctly. Bhekkie went up the tree and covered the bait. I rechecked the camera and it was now working. The time was 7:30 AM. We heard the leopard cough in the distance. We left and continued to check baits. No new tracks on the other baits. It was now too late to build a blind.

    The next morning we checked a bait that had a big track from a couple of days before. That cat hit the bait once and never returned. We went back to the bait with the camera. We left that bait a little after 7:30AM the day before. The cat fed at 9:40AM, 1:30PM, 5:39PM, and 1:22AM. He felt he owned the area. We built a blind that morning and left the area for lunch and a nap.

    When finalizing plans in Dallas I told Shaun it was my preference to shoot a cat in the daylight. While it would be difficult that was our plan. When we stopped for lunch I realized how nervous I was. The shot was only 46 yards and would be taken from a solid rest but I was very anxious. After relaxing for a while I settled down and Shaun, Katherine, and I headed to the blind.

    We were sitting for about two and a half hours when I glanced through my scope and there he was in the tree. We watched him walk up to the leg quarter and swat it like he was trying to kill it. He actually knocked the quarter off the branch and had to reach down and pull it back up. After about ten minutes he was in a good position for me to shoot. I do not think Shaun said “sh” before I pulled the trigger. The leopard actually hung on the bait for about 5 seconds and hit the ground with a thud.

    I am happy to say there was no exciting follow up. He was dead under the tree. We hunted our leopard in the daylight and were able to watch him for ten minutes in the tree. That was very exciting and rewarding. We returned to the camp listening to the guys sing songs in celebration. We fired three shots in the air outside of camp and everybody was there to welcome us as we drove in to camp.

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    Very happy hunters

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    Keep in mind I am 6’-3” tall and 225 Pounds

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    He was a scrapper. The gash in his skill was 1/8” wide, 1” long, and almost in the brain cavity.

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    He also had a missing canine. It must have been an epic battle.


    We still had several days on safari and tried our hand at hyena hunting. This was the first time we ever hunted from a walk in blind. It was interesting walking in the dark barefooted hoping not to bump in to an elephant, snake, or lion. The evening hunts were not bad but the early mornings were very dark with no moon. We had good fun but no luck. We heard the hyena on a natural kill several nights and were unable to attract them to us. Tao told us the hyena were sleeping when we built the blind were able to see us in a dream and that was why they knew where the blind was hidden.

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    Katherine helping out, I thought she was working for a tip.

    Over the last couple of days of our safari we went exploring sometimes in the cruiser, sometimes on foot. We saw bushbuck, a beautiful herd of sable, kudu (no shooters), impala, waterbuck, and warthogs. There were many enjoyable moments in these days. There was plenty of humor and most of it does not translate well away from the hunt, but one day Bhekkie asked Shaun if we were hunting or having some kind of party.

    Shaun Buffee is the professional in Professional Hunter. He is an excellent hunter and a gentleman. He worked hard and loves hunting leopard. There is an upper echelon of hunters in Zimbabwe, some of which I have had the privilege to hunt with. I feel Shaun is in this group. I would hunt with him again and would recommend his services without reservation. His full time tracker Bhekkie is remarkable and they work well together. Bhekkie has a very good demeanor and a wonderful sense of humor.

    Other notes:
    After our last hunt I noted that my shooting was about 90 percent of where it needed to be. This hunt I had three one shot kills with three different rifles on dangerous game. The buffalo received some unneeded insurance shots but it pays to be safe. The Omay South area is still a good dangerous game area. Plenty of buffalo, another hunter shot a 40+ pound elephant while I was there, there are good leopard. Lion would be tough but they are there. I would also like to get a crack at one of the big sable that lives there.

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    Our Chalet

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    Dining hut

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    Stoking the fire

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    Will, is this the same bar that Brent is next to on page 92 of your book?

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    Good start to the season

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    Bhekkie and his ever present smile

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    Tao was a real pleasure to have on the cruiser. He worked hard and was always pleasant.

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    Keffif was our game scout. He carried a Howa 223 with 3 bullets and no sights. He always pitched and worked well with Tao and Bhekkie.

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    Early morning in the Chifudze camp

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    OK it is false advertising, I shot him with the CZ but the double just looks cool.

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    The intrepid Mr. Buffee and yours truly.

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    The Bulawayo Club, we also went to Busters. Martin and Candy were gracious hosts.

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    Our departing picture in front of Martin’s office.
  20. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Well done Mike! Beautiful cat and great pictures!!

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